A Garmin is the tool of choice for most in the peloton to map their distance, time and metres climbed each day. If your Garmin is in negative gradient, then you are going downhill. So you can imagine the relieved smiles on the faces of our riders today, after an extraordinary day of rollers, humps, bumps, pinches, through the kaleidoscope of green landscape to be told the last 20 kilometres into Taupo would be 98% negative Garmin territory.
Today we entered the true “heart” of the North Island. Lake Taupo is smack bang in the middle of this special place, rightly often referred to as “Middle Earth.” Last night after our nightly ritual of speeches and jersey presentations was complete, our Ride Director, Tim Chadd, presented each us with the option of either riding around Lake Rotorua from 7.30, or sleeping in, having a geothermal dip, and joining the ride once it returned from the 45 km lap around the lake. It is a testimony to each and every rider in this now tight-knit group that everyone was up for our daily 6.30 breakfast and ready to roll at 7.30. Chain Reaction is a challenge, and each rider is determined to meet ALL the challenges that a 7 day, 1000km ride encounters. We passed some of Rotorua’s greatest monuments to its “spa” town fame. Hotels and Motels abound, as do Maori Villages and the spectacular architecturally unique Rotorua Museum (currently under repair).
Then off onto the road around the lake. With the sun in our faces as we headed east around the lake, we could see the cloudy “mist” rising from various spots around the horizon. Not low cloud, but steam rising from the multitude of springs and rock pools. With Lake Taupo negotiated, we re-grouped at our Inn, and prepare for our journey south and west to Lake Taupo.
Gone were the neat high hedges and avocado and kiwi fruit farms, displaced by rolling open fields of lush vibrant grass waiting to be consumed by the multitude of cows who either returned their heads at the baffling sight of 40 cyclists passing by, or totally ignored us as they peered across the country side from there precarious perches high on impossibly steep hills. How did they get there, we asked ourselves.
Regrowth and regeneration. A new industry was obvious as we headed south, this is timber country, evidenced by the number of large logging trucks passing both ways, and the scarred landscape, alternating between ordered tall pines, flattened brown fields of ex-ordered tall pines, and pockets of what was once all over this area, lush rainforest resplendent with the ever-present 15 metre tall fern trees. This area goes through a regular round of re-growth and re-generation, so too does the Chain Reaction peloton each year. This year there is a new team, the 5 riders from Henley Homes, and no fewer than 19 new riders in our peloton of 40 riders. Last night Chain Reaction’s Founder, Berrick Wilson told us his personal story of his families battle with Milla’s early life health issues. You can hear a pin drop any time that Berrick tells his story, but we also know that it is just one of so many stories for families that experience a dramatic and often difficult outcome when a child’s health is compromised in some way. Berrick reminded us that Chain Reaction has now been established to survive and thrive as a stand-along organisation, but it requires constant regrowth and regeneration. Our youngest rider this year is 29 year old Will Cooper. Angus Clark is 31. They are the next generation, the life-blood of Chain Reaction, and it has been wonderful to see them embrace the experience of a 7 day ride with such enthusiasm and effort over the past 6 days.
Continuing on with last night’s activities, the PwC team presented the jerseys, preceded by a “little moments” reflection by Dave Earl. He reminded us of all the little behind the scenes moments that go on every day to make the riders' journeys more comfortable; the food, logistics and planning is immense, and to all our wonderful support personnel, we say “Chapeau”. The jerseys were then presented by Brady Dever and Fraser East of the PWC team.
Yellow to Phil Hanna, who keeps the Henley boys under control (just) and has been instrumental in an amazing fund-raising effort by his team, that are currently on level pegging with the The Big Show for best fund-raising.
Green to Michael Nanos , a Henley work–horse both on the bike and in his fund-raising.
White to Russell Wilke, the grey-fox, a dedicated rider and fundraiser for the Marshall White team.
Polka Dot to Craig Murphy, also a Henley team member and experienced rider;
Black to Rob Hinton, an 11 year rider, who has assisted in keeping the Marshall White fundraising machine rolling of the past few years.
David McKenzie, our training coach, also chipped in on the morning ride discussion, by stating that if only a few of us wanted to ride the lake, maybe we’d just roll 10 minutes down the road and get a pleasant coffee made by a real life Barista…….but even that temptation did not sway anyone of our riders. We live and breathe our bikes for the week, and we are all determined to make that 1000 kms by tomorrow afternoon. The end is near, one day to go, and there will definitely be mixed feelings of relief, and I suspect, a yearning for more next year.
Days Stats : Over 6 hours in the saddle, 1670 kms ridden and 1750 metres climbed. Strava also tells us some 3,872 calories were burned, bring on dinner !!